• <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Cook (Captain James).- Webber (John) and Marie Catherina Prestel. Four views in the South Seas [bound with] <i>Atlas to accompany Captain James Cook's account of his voyages...</i> £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Knight (Joseph). <i>On the cultivation of the plants belonging to the natural order of Proteeae</i>, 1809. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> India & China.- Sonnerat (Pierre). <i>Voyage aux Indes Orientales et a la Chine, fait par ordre du roi, depuis 1774 jusqu'en 1781</i>. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Mongolia.- Pallas (Peter Simon). <i>Sammlungen Historischer Nachrichten uber die Mongolischen Volkerschaften.</i> £15,000 to £20,000 
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> America.- Warre (Henry). <i>Sketches in North America</i>, 1848. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Atlases.- <i>English Pilot (The). The Fourth Book. Describing The West-Indian Navigation, from Hudson's Bay to the River Amazones...</i> £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Greece.- Lear (Edward). <i>Views of the Seven Ionian Isles</i>, signed presentation copy from the author to Evelyn Baring, 1863. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Lear (Edward).- [Gray (John Edward)]. <i>Gleanings from the Menagerie and Aviary at Knowsley Hall</i>, 1846. £7,000 to £10,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Flamsteed (John). <i>Historiae Coelestis</i>, first edition,1712. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Flamsteed (John). <i>Atlas Coelestis</i>, 1781. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Conjuring Posters.- The Steens, American Mystifiers: Originators of Silent Transmission. broadside poster, [probably 1890-1900]. £300 to £500
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Tyndale's Bible.- Bible, English. The newe Testament, Richard Jugge, 1552; sold not subject to return. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Cook (Captain James).- Webber (John) and Marie Catherina Prestel. Four views in the South Seas [bound with] <i>Atlas to accompany Captain James Cook's account of his voyages to the Pacific Ocean in the years 1776-1780.</i>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Knight (Joseph). <i>On the cultivation of the plants belonging to the natural order of Proteeae</i>, 1809. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> India & China.- Sonnerat (Pierre). <i>Voyage aux Indes Orientales et a la Chine, fait par ordre du roi, depuis 1774 jusqu'en 1781</i>. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Mongolia.- Pallas (Peter Simon). <i>Sammlungen Historischer Nachrichten uber die Mongolischen Volkerschaften.</i> £15,000 to £20,000 
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> America.- Warre (Henry). <i>Sketches in North America</i>, 1848. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Atlases.- <i>English Pilot (The). The Fourth Book. Describing The West-Indian Navigation, from Hudson's Bay to the River Amazones...</i> £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Greece.- Lear (Edward). <i>Views of the Seven Ionian Isles</i>, signed presentation copy from the author to Evelyn Baring, 1863. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Lear (Edward).- [Gray (John Edward)]. <i>Gleanings from the Menagerie and Aviary at Knowsley Hall</i>, 1846. £7,000 to £10,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Flamsteed (John). <i>Historiae Coelestis</i>, first edition,1712. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. September 27, 2017</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Flamsteed (John). <i>Atlas Coelestis</i>, 1781. £10,000 to £15,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Conjuring Posters.- The Steens, American Mystifiers: Originators of Silent Transmission. broadside poster, [probably 1890-1900]. £300 to £500
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 27:</b> Tyndale's Bible.- Bible, English. The newe Testament, Richard Jugge, 1552; sold not subject to return. £10,000 to £15,000
  • <b>Consignments now invited<br>History of Science & Technology<br>December 12th, 2017</b>
    NEWTON, ISAAC. <i>Opticks</i>. London, 1704. Presentation copy to Edmund Halley. Sold for $1,330,000
    Apple Computer Contract & Dissolution of Contract, signed by Jobs, Wozniak, & Wayne. Sold for $1,594,500
    DARWIN, CHARLES. Autograph Manuscript page from the manuscript of <i>On the Origin of Species</i>. Sold for $250,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Cook in Tahiti. [Playbill]. [Germany, c.1840.] $3,000 - $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Roberts' Sketches in Egypt and Nubia. London, 1846-9. $20,000 - $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Breydenbach. Peregrinatio in terram sanctam. Mainz, 1486. $100,000 - $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Dürer. Underweysung der messung [and two more]. Nuremberg, 1525-8. $150,000 - $200,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Whitman. Autograph Manuscript [in] The Complete Writings. One of 32 sets. $8,000 - $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Columbus. De Insulis nuper in mari Indico repertis. Basel, 1494. $700,000 - $1,000,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> The Dr. Hendon M. Harris Jr. Korean Atlas Collection. [Korea; c.1700 to c.1890.] $35,000 - $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 26:</b> Aa, Pieter van der. Naaukeurige versameling der gedenk-waardigste zee en land-reysen. Leyden, 1706-8. $8000 - $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Russian Kholod 5D67 HFL Rocket Engine. $25,000 - $40,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Neil Armstrong Apollo Era Training Glove. $8,000 - $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Large Lunar Near Side Chart, Signed by 20th Century Surface Explorers. $20,000 - $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 27:</b> Annotated Photo Album Detailing Alexander Graham Bell's Experiments with Tetrahedral Kites. $50,000 - $80,000
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Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2017 Issue

Three New Theories Attempt to Unravel the 500-year-old Mystery of the Voynich Manuscript

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Venezuelan swamp or European bath?

It is perhaps the greatest mystery of the book world. A 240-page illustrated manuscript, whose history can be traced back almost five centuries, remains indecipherable, its language, creator and origin unknown. For centuries, people attempted to crack its code. Then, for about two centuries, it disappeared, returning to visibility in 1912 when purchased by Polish bookseller Wilfred Voynich. It is from Voynich that it received its common name, the "Voynich Manuscript." Since 1969, it has been owned by Yale University's Beinecke Library, a gift from bookseller H.P. Kraus. In these more recent years, attempts to break the code have been even more intense and frequent. And yet, the mystery goes on.

 

It is written in a language that has confounded even the best code breakers. Whether it is an actual language, a code, or just nonsense writing is uncertain. Its subject is generally understood based on its illustrations. They appear on most pages, and break into categories – herbals, astrology/astronomy, biology (mostly nude women in pools), pharmaceuticals. In 2009, a major breakthrough was achieved in dating it when it was subjected to radiocarbon testing at the University of Arizona. It was determined to date from sometime between 1408-1438. While not eliminating the possibility, that made the chances that it was some sort of elaborate forgery or fraud less likely. Still, the who or why remains a mystery.

 

In the past month, three more theories were put forth to explain this mysterious book. The first explanation comes from Morten St. George, who describes himself as "an independent researcher who has challenged establishment thinking on several issues." Indeed he has. St. George's theory takes us back to the 1200's, well before the creation of the Voynich Manuscript, to a group that disappeared 600 years or more ago. The Cathars were a dissident Christian sect in the days before Protestantism, a time when for the most part there was but one Christian Church, the Catholic Church. They lived in southern France and northern Italy. The Cathars had a series of castles, most notable the castle fortress of Montségur.

 

The Cathars had some unusual beliefs, at least by today's standards. They believed in two Gods, the good, as personified by the New Testament, the evil, personified by the Old. Since it was the God of the Old, or Satan, that created the world, material things were evil. Therefore, worldly goods were to be avoided. Procreation was worldly, so that was bad too. Such an attitude is never good for preservation of a group (ask the Shakers if you can find any), but the Cathars must have been good at conversions. They had but one sacrament, a sort of dry baptism of laying a hand on the forehead. Water was avoided as, after all, it was a worldly substance. They were peaceful people, did not believe in violence or war, were vegetarians, treated women almost as equal to males, perhaps their most unusual custom of all for the day.

 

Their peaceful ways made them well-liked by their neighbors. Neighbors, even the nobility, defended the Cathars, and obviously provided continuing members. However, this still did not sit well with the Catholic Church, which sent numerous leaders out to convert them. They had little success. The Cathars found the Church leaders too worldly. They were content with their own system of beliefs.

 

In 1198, Pope Innocent III came to power and he was determined to exert more control over the various kingdoms and regions of Europe. In 1209, he launched what is known as the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars. It was bloody, thousands of Cathars killed. The Inquisition began during the latter stages of this crusade. While locals at first attempted to aid the Cathars, the unfortunate turn of events made it too dangerous to take their side. In 1244, Montségur fell, some 200 Cathars were burned at the stake, and the movement was essentially dead. Their terrible fate has been mostly forgotten as unlike other groups whose sufferings are known, the Cathars had no survivors to tell their story. Some followers converted, others disappeared into the countryside. By the time the Voynich Manuscript was created, the first half of the 15th century, they were no more.

 

Or were they? St. George's theory was that some escaped by boats, perhaps supplied by friendly neighbors. Since flames awaited them if captured, the Cathars had good reason to flee, even if it was risky. He believes that they made it to the coast of Africa, and then, following currents, sailed to Venezuela. They didn't know where they were going, but that is where the current took them. While the date of such a trip is unknown, the date of the Voynich Manuscript dictates that if they created it, they made it to America long before Columbus.

 

St. George bases his theory on the illustrations within the Voynich manuscript. While the most common theory has placed its origin in northern Italy, he points to tropical appearing scenes, many plants that do not exist in Europe (most do not appear anywhere, although one he has identified as a water plant from Venezuela). A flower looks much like a sunflower, indigenous to the Americas but unknown in Europe at the time. The images are virtually all women, surprising recognition for European Christians, except for the Cathars. Still, a woman with a cross indicates they are Christians. Various scenes depict the women allegedly trudging through green swamps, common to Venezuela but not Europe. They are naked, appropriate for the tropics, but not Europe (okay, maybe those southern French beaches contradict this point). There is even a castle that looks like Montségur, though that would have been a memory in Venezuela. Another shows a bonfire with a person inside, the castle in the background, perhaps illustrating its terrible end.

 

St. George also notes an absence of children, despite all of the women, typical for childless Cathars. One image looks like it could be a man pursuing a fleeing woman, perhaps displaying the aversion to procreation. This could also explain their disappearance. While new members were drawn from other Christians in Europe, such may not have been possible among the natives of South America.

 

Another theory recently put forward comes from Patrick Lockerby, described as a "linguist specialising in language acquisition and computational linguistics," on the Science 2.0 website. Lockerby has used some sort of program on the symbols in the manuscript and determined it is based on a medieval form of Latin. While he does not have a clear translation, he believes it shows this to be a book for apothecaries and those selling bath oils. He points to jars on a shelf as evidence this is for use by apothecaries. Water scenes, he says, display pipes, common in public baths. Rather than Venezuelan swamps, he believes the women are bathing in European baths.

 

Stephen Skinner, an author with a long bibliography, recently postulated that it was created by a Jewish physician, the naked women in the water being Jewish women in ritual mikvah baths. His explanation is this is the only place in Europe at the time that there would be naked women and no men in a communal pool. This doesn't entirely explain the rest of the book, and the mysterious writing reads left to right, not right to left like Hebrew.

 

Of course, the cases these researchers have made are tilted toward their beliefs. Supporting evidence is highlighted, but there are many more illustrations in the Voynich Manuscript that may not clearly support their theories. These individuals are not traditional, university type of researchers. They are perhaps advocates for a belief which they have bolstered with reasonable arguments.

 

I have no idea whether any of them is correct. Most likely, they aren't. The most likely idea to me seems to be some sort of physician. Such a person in those days would have been part physician, part herbalist, part astrologer, part mystic. Perhaps he invented his own language or code to protect his secrets of the trade.

 

I am struck by the apparent lack of religious symbolism in a document from this era. Even the one image with a woman apparently holding a cross could be some other object composed of two crossed sticks. I find this aspect particularly surprising, even for a physician, though it might support Skinner's thesis that the author was Jewish. European Jews might have found it safer to downplay religion, while Christians would have felt it better to display their faith.

 

Still, I find these new theories reassuring. They have at least come up with rational explanations for something that has been a total mystery. Claims of some incredibly sophisticated hidden code or hoax all the way to created by space aliens stretch the limits of credibility. Even if these new theories are wrong, they reassure us that there is most likely a reasonable explanation for the creation of this manuscript, though the exact details may yet to be discovered.

 

Link to Morten St. George's website: www.mortenstgeorge.net

 

Link to an article by Patrick Lockerby in Science 2.0: www.science20.com/patrick_lockerby/the_keys_to_the_voynich_manuscript-225224


Posted On: 2017-09-08 03:23
User Name: mairin111

Excellent piece from Michael Stillman on the enigmatic, continually contested Voynich Manuscript. This is a subject receiving generous play in the media, most recently a cover feature in this week's TLS, "Bathers in Green Liquid" by H.R. Woudhuysen. Readers will appreciate Stillman's information on the manuscript's Cathars connection, and also what the unfailingly interesting Morten St. George has to say on the matter. A fascinating topic. Our thanks, indeed, to Mr Stillman (and keep writing, have enjoyed your contributions).

Maureen E. Mulvihill, Princeton Research Forum, NJ.
Rare Book Hub guest writer, 2016, "Old Books / New Editions" (3-essay series).
_____


Posted On: 2017-09-11 05:26
User Name: wallyj

Nicholas Gibbs presents a well reasoned explanation of the various aspects of this manuscript at the following link:

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/voynich-manuscript-solution/

It too appears in the current edition of the Times Literary Supplement (September 5, 2017) as the article mentioned in the other comment here. It manages to avoid the patronizing and irritating references to the "gals" of Mr. St. George.


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Sotheby’s: The Library of John & Suzanne Bonham. 26 September in London. Viewing 22-25 September</b>
    Sotheby’s London, Sep. 26:</b> Churchill, Winston S. Two Typed Letters Signed, regarding the British North Greenland Expedition (1952-54). £3,000 to £4,000
    Sotheby’s London, Sep. 26:</b> Bernatz, Johann Martin. <i> Scenes in Ethiopia</i>. London: F.G. Moon, 1852. First edition. £6,000 to £8,000
    Sotheby’s London, Sep. 26:</b> Captain Lawrence Edward Grace Oates. Collection comprising (among other things): documents and pamphlets. £1,500 to £1,800
    <b>Sotheby’s: The Library of John & Suzanne Bonham. 26 September in London. Viewing 22-25 September</b>
    Sotheby’s London, Sep. 26:</b> Darwin, Charles, and Philip Parker King, and Robert FitzRoy. <i> Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle Between the Years 1826 and 1836…</i> £15,000 to £20,000
    Sotheby’s London, Sep. 26:</b> Spratt, Thomas A.B., and Edward Forbes. <i>Travels in Lycia, Milyas, and the Cibyratis</i>. London: John Van Voorst, 1847. £800 to £1,200
    Sotheby’s London, Sep. 26:</b> Richardson, John. <i>Arctic Searching Expedition: A Journal of a Boat-Voyage Through Rupert's Land and the Arctic Sea, In Search of Sir John Franklin</i>. £6,000 to £8,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Broadside proclaiming the end of the Revolutionary War, NH, 1783. $20,000 to $30,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Manuscript medical journal kept by physicians aboard Continental Navy vessels, 1777-88. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Manuscript notes on sermons heard at Boston's First Church & Old South Church, 1684-1703. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Missionary archive of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond, MN, 1833-93. $30,000 to $40,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Captain's journal of a mutinous whaling journey, South Pacific, 1839-46. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> <i>McClees' Gallery of Photographic Portraits ... of the Thirty-Fifth Congress</i>,Washington, 1859. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Juan de Ugarte, manuscript report on first 16 months of California missions, Mexico, 1699. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Cyanotype albums depicting the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge, New York City, 1897-1903. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Unrecorded broadside from occupied New York, 1778. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> <i>The Honolulu Merchants' Looking-Glass</i>, first edition, San Francisco, 1862. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> Honorius Philoponus, <i>Nova Typis Transacta Navigatio</i>, first edition, Linz, 1621. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28:</b> The Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, NY, 1830. $10,000 to $15,000.
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…

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